By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
A man who was charged with stealing a car in Fremont County while being held on another car theft charge in Natrona County was properly tried for the crime, Wyoming’s Supreme Court has ruled.
The court upheld the convictions of Ronald Wayne Crebs III, rejecting his arguments that Fremont County prosecutors took too long to bring him to trial in January 2020 on charges stemming from the October 2017 incident.
According to the opinion, written by Justice Kari Gray, Crebs was arrested on Oct. 2, 2017, after leading Fremont County Sheriff’s Office officers on a high-speed chase from Fremont County to Natrona County.
Crebs, who was held in the Natrona County Detention Center after his arrest, admitted to stealing the car in Fremont County and to stealing another one the day before in Natrona County.
Crebs was charged by Natrona County authorities on Oct. 4, 2017, and jailed pending his trial. On Dec. 7, 2017, Fremont County authorities charged Crebs with the vehicle theft in their county and asked that they be notified if Crebs was released from the Natrona County jail so they could serve him with an arrest warrant.
After eight months in jail, Crebs pleaded guilty in Natrona County and was sentenced to up to seven years in prison.
In April 2019, about 18 months after his arrest in Natrona County, Crebs asked that the charges against him in Fremont County be dismissed because officials there had not acted on the charges, violating his constitutional right to a speedy trial. Fremont County officials then began the process to put Crebs on trial.
In January of this year, more than two years after his initial arrest, Crebs pleaded guilty to the Fremont County car theft on the condition he could pursue his claim that Fremont County officials violated his rights to a speedy trial.
Justices found that the 761-day delay in holding Crebs’ Fremont County trial did merit a review.
However, justices also ruled that Crebs was responsible for at least part of that delay because of his trial in Natrona County.
“Mr. Crebs violated the laws in multiple counties and bears the burden of the delay caused by his prosecution in another county,” the ruling said.
The ruling also said that Fremont County authorities, through negligence, failed to act as quickly as they could have in Crebs’ trial, but justices also found that Crebs failed to prove that failure prejudiced the case against him.
“Our ultimate inquiry in assessing a speedy trial claim is whether the delay ‘substantially impaired the right of the accused to a fair trial,’” the opinion said. “Mr. Crebs’ right to a fair trial was not impaired.”